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Asia Minute: Opening a 'Tourism Sandbox' in Thailand

Virus Outbreak Thailand Tourism Coronavirus Kata Beach
Adam Schreck/AP
A surfer carries his board ashore as the sun sets over Kata Beach on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand on Sunday, May 26, 2019. Thailand hopes to first fully reopen the island of Phuket, its most popular destination, by July 1 for vaccinated visitors without quarantine. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)

There’s a call to make it easier for vaccinated visitors to get to the beach. But this discussion is not in Hawaii—it’s in Thailand.

One of Thailand’s prime beach destinations is about to start a tourism experiment.

The island of Phuket will re-open to fully vaccinated visitors three weeks from Thursday—part of a broader government plan to pry open certain areas of the country to the hospitality industry.

Before the visitors arrive, there’s been a focus on local safety.

The Bangkok Post reports more than 60% of the local population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

That’s about ten times the rate of national vaccination, according to the Reuters coronavirus tracker.

The goal is to fully vaccinate 70% of Phuket’s population by July 1.

That’s when fully vaccinated visitors will be welcomed, although they won’t be able to travel anywhere else in the country for 14 days.

Thailand had weathered much of the pandemic better than many other countries, but since April it’s been hit by another wave of cases—especially in Bangkok.

If what the government calls the “Phuket Tourism Sandbox model” is successful, the Tourism Authority of Thailand hopes to expand it to Bangkok, the island of Koh Samui, and the northern city of Chang Mai in October.

And if all goes as planned, the entire country could be re-opened for vaccinated travelers starting in January 2022.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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